Tara Kirkland, owner of Custard Boutique, personally answered the phone at her South Carolina store and was wholeheartedly open and happy to let us in on some of her experiences and advice in opening up a fashion boutique.
The first inspiration… 
I was constantly doing makeovers with friends while in middle school.   I remember having an idea where I’d open a full makeover type of a place – where there would be a hair and make up area, plus clothes and accessories – all in one place. I even remember scribbling down different names for this dream boutique.
Earlier work…
I worked as a buyer for an independent toy store, then was recognized for my displays there and hired as a visual merchandiser.  I’d also work nights at a restaurant to save money, always with that boutique idea in mind.
That final trigger that got things going….
I wanted to open a store somewhere where I’ve never been before and had no ties.   It was important to me that the store location was close to the coast, in a city with a “small town” feel, and within 5 hours of my home in NY.   I drove down to Georgia for a weekend, and absolutely loved it.   I got this gut feeling and just knew that this was the right move for me.
Couldn’t do it alone…
It was a very “grassroots” opening.   My mom, dad and my boyfriend at the time ( who is now my husband ) helped a lot.   I had good friends help build shelves, wallpaper and do all sort of odd jobs. I was very fortunate.   We tried to use a lot of recycled things - including the paint on our now signature yellow striped walls. My dad used his connections and turned an abandoned Christmas float into our main store display.
Expanding in a new location….
My mother recommended Savannah, Georgia as a location the 2nd store.   It was an equally quaint town, yet quickly growing and improving.   I went to check it out and got that same gut feeling as I did with the first store.   Within 30 days, I was talking to a broker and settling on a location.  Even though I tend to be very particular - I know what I like.   We’re looking for a 3rd location now, but I’m still waiting for same familiar gut feeling.
Advice you wish someone told you…
You can’t do whatever you want.   People open their own boutique thinking that they’ll do everything their own way and that’s that, but you shouldn’t sacrifice good customer service for that.
You have to really love what you are doing, because for your first 2 years, you will work every minute and take your work home.   It’s rewarding, of course, but you need to love this to make it.
You have to really understand that you work in customer service and be built for that.   You have to have the personality to stay calm under pressure, know that you will be under pressure often, and rise to the occasion.
Take advantage of resources such a free counseling and courses as well as business incentives
 Stick by what’s important to you….
It’s very important to me to keep those small town ties, support my local businesses and vendors and to build those relationships.   That’s what’s real to me.   It’s more important to dress the woman living in my town.   That’s why I’m not interested in the bigger strip mall locations.   That sense of community actually has me living part-time in both Georgia and South Carolina!
Who picks your store items….
I pick everything in the store.   In fact, I’ve touched everything in the store in selecting items, as I think fabric is incredibly important
I’d say the style of the Custard Boutique is modern with a southwest feel.   I love nice prints, and items that are flattering on anyone.     I pick items with a few particular customers in mind, but I don’t shop for myself in making choices for the store.   You have to keep in mind that this isn’t your personal closet.   Having said that, the Wrap Belt is one of my personal favorite things in the store.   We get a lot of repeat customers in the store looking for that belt.   It’s so easy because it goes with just about anything.   Plus you can tie it in so many ways, and if my husband can master tying this belt – anyone can! 
A sweet purpose for it all….
I think of shopping as a type of therapy.   It’s nice to be able to have someone come in after a bad day and be able to help them, even if it’s just recommending where to go to eat locally!
A huge thank you to Tara for her eagerness to share her thoughtful advice!   We can’t wait to visit her wherever she finds a home for the next Custard Boutique!

Tara Kirkland, owner of Custard Boutique, personally answered the phone at her South Carolina store and was wholeheartedly open and happy to let us in on some of her experiences and advice in opening up a fashion boutique.

The first inspiration… 

  • I was constantly doing makeovers with friends while in middle school.   I remember having an idea where I’d open a full makeover type of a place – where there would be a hair and make up area, plus clothes and accessories – all in one place. I even remember scribbling down different names for this dream boutique.

Earlier work…

  • I worked as a buyer for an independent toy store, then was recognized for my displays there and hired as a visual merchandiser.  I’d also work nights at a restaurant to save money, always with that boutique idea in mind.

That final trigger that got things going….

  • I wanted to open a store somewhere where I’ve never been before and had no ties.   It was important to me that the store location was close to the coast, in a city with a “small town” feel, and within 5 hours of my home in NY.   I drove down to Georgia for a weekend, and absolutely loved it.   I got this gut feeling and just knew that this was the right move for me.

Couldn’t do it alone…

  • It was a very “grassroots” opening.   My mom, dad and my boyfriend at the time ( who is now my husband ) helped a lot.   I had good friends help build shelves, wallpaper and do all sort of odd jobs. I was very fortunate.   We tried to use a lot of recycled things - including the paint on our now signature yellow striped walls. My dad used his connections and turned an abandoned Christmas float into our main store display.

Expanding in a new location….

  • My mother recommended Savannah, Georgia as a location the 2nd store.   It was an equally quaint town, yet quickly growing and improving.   I went to check it out and got that same gut feeling as I did with the first store.   Within 30 days, I was talking to a broker and settling on a location.  Even though I tend to be very particular - I know what I like.   We’re looking for a 3rd location now, but I’m still waiting for same familiar gut feeling.

Advice you wish someone told you…

  • You can’t do whatever you want.   People open their own boutique thinking that they’ll do everything their own way and that’s that, but you shouldn’t sacrifice good customer service for that.
  • You have to really love what you are doing, because for your first 2 years, you will work every minute and take your work home.   It’s rewarding, of course, but you need to love this to make it.
  • You have to really understand that you work in customer service and be built for that.   You have to have the personality to stay calm under pressure, know that you will be under pressure often, and rise to the occasion.
  • Take advantage of resources such a free counseling and courses as well as business incentives

 Stick by what’s important to you….

  • It’s very important to me to keep those small town ties, support my local businesses and vendors and to build those relationships.   That’s what’s real to me.   It’s more important to dress the woman living in my town.   That’s why I’m not interested in the bigger strip mall locations.   That sense of community actually has me living part-time in both Georgia and South Carolina!

Who picks your store items….

  • I pick everything in the store.   In fact, I’ve touched everything in the store in selecting items, as I think fabric is incredibly important
  • I’d say the style of the Custard Boutique is modern with a southwest feel.   I love nice prints, and items that are flattering on anyone.     I pick items with a few particular customers in mind, but I don’t shop for myself in making choices for the store.   You have to keep in mind that this isn’t your personal closet.   Having said that, the Wrap Belt is one of my personal favorite things in the store.   We get a lot of repeat customers in the store looking for that belt.   It’s so easy because it goes with just about anything.   Plus you can tie it in so many ways, and if my husband can master tying this belt – anyone can! 

A sweet purpose for it all….

  • I think of shopping as a type of therapy.   It’s nice to be able to have someone come in after a bad day and be able to help them, even if it’s just recommending where to go to eat locally!

A huge thank you to Tara for her eagerness to share her thoughtful advice!   We can’t wait to visit her wherever she finds a home for the next Custard Boutique!

Casual yet still Dramatic:
Even if your night is leaning towards the casual, and you’d like to rock your skinniest black jeans tonight – acknowledge that it’s Valentine’s day and welcome romance into your life with a candy colored, delicate top. Our studded ADA Cala Belt will pull this look together – runway style!  

Contracts keep things Feisty:
If you’re not quite sure what’s been planned for you tonight – a flared, short skirt, paired with black heels and a matching black belt, will work in almost any situation.   Contrasts are always eye-catching:   A short skirt and a demure, sweet top.   Or flowing, soft fabrics – cinched by a leather belt and matching wrap leather jewelry. It’s the perfect night to accent your feminine look with a touch of your ‘feisty’ side.

Little Black Dress with Spice:
The little black dress is always perfect for the symphony or an elegant restaurant – but you’ll really appreciate how a Valentine red Wrap Belt adds spice to your look and attitude on this special night!  A dash of well placed color to a simple black dress can turn your work look into a very confident and chic “after work” date night outfit.   

Always pick something you feel comfortable and confident in, but be a little fearless and stand out in a little color tonight!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Casual yet still Dramatic:

Even if your night is leaning towards the casual, and you’d like to rock your skinniest black jeans tonight – acknowledge that it’s Valentine’s day and welcome romance into your life with a candy colored, delicate top. Our studded ADA Cala Belt will pull this look together – runway style!  

Contracts keep things Feisty:

If you’re not quite sure what’s been planned for you tonight – a flared, short skirt, paired with black heels and a matching black belt, will work in almost any situation.   Contrasts are always eye-catching:   A short skirt and a demure, sweet top.   Or flowing, soft fabrics – cinched by a leather belt and matching wrap leather jewelry. It’s the perfect night to accent your feminine look with a touch of your ‘feisty’ side.

Little Black Dress with Spice:

The little black dress is always perfect for the symphony or an elegant restaurant – but you’ll really appreciate how a Valentine red Wrap Belt adds spice to your look and attitude on this special night!  A dash of well placed color to a simple black dress can turn your work look into a very confident and chic “after work” date night outfit.   

Always pick something you feel comfortable and confident in, but be a little fearless and stand out in a little color tonight!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

The latest accessory craze?   Stackable rings.  
It’s a fun trend, and very easy to pull off.   You can personalize the look by simply playing with color, shape, size and even material!  
Here are, just to make it easier, a few rules to consider:  
—— Think thin, simple and mostly gold.   Delicate threadbare rings and chain rings on one hand with a more dazzling, larger piece mixed in is the most popular way to go.
—— Master the art of wearing top finger rings, also known as tea rings or midi rings.   These super-flattering bands sit above the first knuckle of your finger

—— Wear multiple rings on one finger.   Pair a top finger ring with a regular ring on the same finger, or layer on similar rings on one finger for a bit of that cluster look.

The latest accessory craze?   Stackable rings.  

It’s a fun trend, and very easy to pull off.   You can personalize the look by simply playing with color, shape, size and even material!  

Here are, just to make it easier, a few rules to consider:  

—— Think thin, simple and mostly gold.   Delicate threadbare rings and chain rings on one hand with a more dazzling, larger piece mixed in is the most popular way to go.

—— Master the art of wearing top finger rings, also known as tea rings or midi rings.   These super-flattering bands sit above the first knuckle of your finger

—— Wear multiple rings on one finger.   Pair a top finger ring with a regular ring on the same finger, or layer on similar rings on one finger for a bit of that cluster look.

Other Unique Storage Ideas
Drape your belts over a tie rack, roll colorful belts and arrange them in a clear vase, or wrap them around a towel rack for easy selection and access.   Come up with some great ideas of your own and let us post about them!  
—- Check out other great storage ideas on our ADA Collection blog:  http://adacollection.com/blogs/latest —-

Other Unique Storage Ideas

Drape your belts over a tie rack, roll colorful belts and arrange them in a clear vase, or wrap them around a towel rack for easy selection and access.   Come up with some great ideas of your own and let us post about them!  

—- Check out other great storage ideas on our ADA Collection blog:  http://adacollection.com/blogs/latest —-

Using Curtain Rings
Curtain rings are a great idea to place directly onto a closet rod or to hang off of closet hangers. It’s a great way to save space in your closet, and it provides for an easy way to slip the belt buckles in and out of the curtain ring openings. 
—- check out more ideas on our ADA Collection accessory blog: http://adacollection.com/blogs/latest —-

Using Curtain Rings

Curtain rings are a great idea to place directly onto a closet rod or to hang off of closet hangers. It’s a great way to save space in your closet, and it provides for an easy way to slip the belt buckles in and out of the curtain ring openings. 

—- check out more ideas on our ADA Collection accessory blog: http://adacollection.com/blogs/latest —-

Behind your Door
Screw some hangers, or a hanger rod, into the back of your door. How many you use depends on how many belts you have. Make sure you space them out just enough to allow the belt buckles to fit.  A plastic shoe organizer is also a great idea for belt storage behind your door.
—- check out more ideas on our ADA Collection accessory blog: http://adacollection.com/blogs/latest —-

Behind your Door

Screw some hangers, or a hanger rod, into the back of your door. How many you use depends on how many belts you have. Make sure you space them out just enough to allow the belt buckles to fit.  A plastic shoe organizer is also a great idea for belt storage behind your door.

—- check out more ideas on our ADA Collection accessory blog: http://adacollection.com/blogs/latest —-

In Your Dresser
If you’re storing your belts in a drawer, roll them.  Begin with the non-buckle end of your belt and begin to coil it loosely. You don’t want to coil it too tightly, or you’ll damage the fabric or leather.   Try having some plastic piping cut to fit your drawers at your local hardware store!
—- check out more ideas on our ADA Collection accessory blog: http://adacollection.com/blogs/latest —-

In Your Dresser

If you’re storing your belts in a drawer, roll them.  Begin with the non-buckle end of your belt and begin to coil it loosely. You don’t want to coil it too tightly, or you’ll damage the fabric or leather.   Try having some plastic piping cut to fit your drawers at your local hardware store!

—- check out more ideas on our ADA Collection accessory blog: http://adacollection.com/blogs/latest —-

OUR LAUNCH INTO FASHION!
We are so excited to announce that ADA Collection has officially launched our new clothing line!   Ada and her busy Sales Team were proud to introduce the soft fabrics and edgy designs last week in NY.  
 It’s been a long time coming, as Ada’s passion for design and love of fashion naturally led her to this new outlet for creative expression.   Her inspiration and style already cemented, the only thing missing, was the right team to construct Ada’s visions.   
The look had to be pure “ADA”.  The fabrics needed to be high-quality to lay and flow just perfectly.  Flawless tailoring was key.  Ada would settle for nothing less, and it’s thanks to her artistic eye and attention to the smallest detail, that has led to this Spring 2014 ADA Collection clothing line.
Meant for the modern woman of today, who chooses not to choose between elegance and comfort - we hope you fall in love with our new looks!

OUR LAUNCH INTO FASHION!

We are so excited to announce that ADA Collection has officially launched our new clothing line!   Ada and her busy Sales Team were proud to introduce the soft fabrics and edgy designs last week in NY.  

It’s been a long time coming, as Ada’s passion for design and love of fashion naturally led her to this new outlet for creative expression.   Her inspiration and style already cemented, the only thing missing, was the right team to construct Ada’s visions.  

The look had to be pure “ADA”.  The fabrics needed to be high-quality to lay and flow just perfectly.  Flawless tailoring was key.  Ada would settle for nothing less, and it’s thanks to her artistic eye and attention to the smallest detail, that has led to this Spring 2014 ADA Collection clothing line.

Meant for the modern woman of today, who chooses not to choose between elegance and comfort - we hope you fall in love with our new looks!

9 fashion mistakes to avoid on super cold winter days


Fashion trends take a backseat to frostbite warnings when temperatures feel like 15 to 30 below.  Having said that, the layers you wear underneath can be beautifully wrapped in a colorful ADA Wrap Belt and accented with some easy to wear, soft leather ADA bracelets.
Dressing for temperatures that can feel below zero calls for the right tips to stay warm.  Beware of layering up with the wrong wardrobe picks that could actually make you colder. 

—-The wrong fabrics
Cotton is a material mistake because it absorbs moisture, whether sweat or snow, and retains it. 
—-Too many socks
One pair of thick socks or two thin pairs is just fine. Too many layers can restrict your feet’s circulation, which can actually make your feet colder in the long run.
—-Exposed skin
At temperatures of 15 to 30 below, unprotected skin makes you vulnerable to frostbite setting in within minutes. Wear gloves made of breathable fabrics that have a bit of air space at their tips for added insulation. Protect your face from the chilly wind with a thick scarf or a facemask. 
—-No headwear
Forgetting headwear in this chilly weather, means risking the loss of 60% of your body’s heat. Even a winter headband or a baseball cap will do.
—-High heels
Wearing high heels is an easy way to get frostbite in when it’s really cold out. If heels are an office must-have, sport winter boots during the commute and swap them out with heels when you get to work.
-—Short jacket
While a short jacket might be the more stylish choice, always opt for a long jacket when the temperature goes down. The more heat you can trap against your body – the better!
—-Stockings
When it’s truly cold - stockings simply don’t cut it. Rely on thick tights or leggings for a maximum layer of protection with jeans or pants.
—-Caring about what you look like
When the temperatures are below 30 degrees, your comfort and health come first.  Fashion be dammed and wear your out of style coat and warmest knit hat that doesn’t match your gloves.  Create your own bold, and colorful style – while being safe and warm! .   However, if you have the time to prepare and buy matching gloves and hats, and  pretty ( yet warm ) layers underneath – color them up with ADA belts and jewelry!

9 fashion mistakes to avoid on super cold winter days

Fashion trends take a backseat to frostbite warnings when temperatures feel like 15 to 30 below.  Having said that, the layers you wear underneath can be beautifully wrapped in a colorful ADA Wrap Belt and accented with some easy to wear, soft leather ADA bracelets.

Dressing for temperatures that can feel below zero calls for the right tips to stay warm.  Beware of layering up with the wrong wardrobe picks that could actually make you colder.

—-The wrong fabrics

Cotton is a material mistake because it absorbs moisture, whether sweat or snow, and retains it.

—-Too many socks

One pair of thick socks or two thin pairs is just fine. Too many layers can restrict your feet’s circulation, which can actually make your feet colder in the long run.

—-Exposed skin

At temperatures of 15 to 30 below, unprotected skin makes you vulnerable to frostbite setting in within minutes. Wear gloves made of breathable fabrics that have a bit of air space at their tips for added insulation. Protect your face from the chilly wind with a thick scarf or a facemask. 

—-No headwear

Forgetting headwear in this chilly weather, means risking the loss of 60% of your body’s heat. Even a winter headband or a baseball cap will do.

—-High heels

Wearing high heels is an easy way to get frostbite in when it’s really cold out. If heels are an office must-have, sport winter boots during the commute and swap them out with heels when you get to work.

-—Short jacket

While a short jacket might be the more stylish choice, always opt for a long jacket when the temperature goes down. The more heat you can trap against your body – the better!

—-Stockings

When it’s truly cold - stockings simply don’t cut it. Rely on thick tights or leggings for a maximum layer of protection with jeans or pants.

—-Caring about what you look like

When the temperatures are below 30 degrees, your comfort and health come first.  Fashion be dammed and wear your out of style coat and warmest knit hat that doesn’t match your gloves.  Create your own bold, and colorful style – while being safe and warm! .   However, if you have the time to prepare and buy matching gloves and hats, and  pretty ( yet warm ) layers underneath – color them up with ADA belts and jewelry!

SALAD IN A JAR!  great idea to make a week’s worth and have healthy meals ready to eat!   check out more on this, plus some easy recipes on our blog!  http://adacollection.com/blogs/latest

SALAD IN A JAR!  great idea to make a week’s worth and have healthy meals ready to eat!   check out more on this, plus some easy recipes on our blog!  http://adacollection.com/blogs/latest

I don’t know how it’s possible, but the sweatshirt has become chic.   Granted, we’re talking about a subtle, fitted, well designed sweatshirt – but yes, it’s all the rage this winter.
Designers are all over this trend, showcasing jeweled embellishments, and artistic designs – with sweatshirts costing hundreds of dollars.  
Still, with this trend taking off very quickly – you can find a well fitted sweatshirt within your price range at a local boutique or mall.   
Other than finding a good fit and design – Paring it appropriately is what’s going to make you look high fashion versus lazy casual.  Ideas:   Skinny jeans and boots, ankle booties of chic flats.   A nice pencil skirt and blouse underneath for work, or simply a short skirt will work well with this look.   
Mostly – high end accessories.    To take this casual look to fabulous- you’ll need a power clutch ( Try our Kacy Clutches ), or some really sleek and powerful bracelets and rings.

I don’t know how it’s possible, but the sweatshirt has become chic.   Granted, we’re talking about a subtle, fitted, well designed sweatshirt – but yes, it’s all the rage this winter.

Designers are all over this trend, showcasing jeweled embellishments, and artistic designs – with sweatshirts costing hundreds of dollars.  

Still, with this trend taking off very quickly – you can find a well fitted sweatshirt within your price range at a local boutique or mall.   

Other than finding a good fit and design – Paring it appropriately is what’s going to make you look high fashion versus lazy casual.  Ideas:   Skinny jeans and boots, ankle booties of chic flats.   A nice pencil skirt and blouse underneath for work, or simply a short skirt will work well with this look.   

Mostly – high end accessories.    To take this casual look to fabulous- you’ll need a power clutch ( Try our Kacy Clutches ), or some really sleek and powerful bracelets and rings.

Grunge, Punk, Camo – you’ve seen it on the runways, in fashion magazines, and now you’d like to try it.  Check out our tips on our ADA Collection blog on how to keep it edgy yet elegant!

Grunge, Punk, Camo – you’ve seen it on the runways, in fashion magazines, and now you’d like to try it.  Check out our tips on our ADA Collection blog on how to keep it edgy yet elegant!

Wine Women & Shoes – Nov 9th in Sacramento, then moving near you! Enjoy wine and shop for a great cause! Proceeds from the auction and designer runway show help find jobs for women in need!
Read More: http://www.winewomenandshoes.com/

Wine Women & Shoes – Nov 9th in Sacramento, then moving near you! Enjoy wine and shop for a great cause! Proceeds from the auction and designer runway show help find jobs for women in need!

Read More: http://www.winewomenandshoes.com/

Dress up your new winter sweaters and necklines with our latest leather and gold creations. Take the Agata Necklace, layer up more delicate ADA pieces, and create this chic winter look!

Dress up your new winter sweaters and necklines with our latest leather and gold creations. Take the Agata Necklace, layer up more delicate ADA pieces, and create this chic winter look!

The incomparable veteran singer and “King of Country”, George Strait, was honored as the CMA Entertainer of the Year….   But enough about the winners, losers and overall fun we had watching last night’s Country Music Awards – let’s talk about how elegant the top ladies of country music looked!   

Surprisingly, belts were seen paired with long elegant gowns all over the red carpet – including on the beautiful event co-host Carrie Underwood. Large earrings and gold bracelets were worn by some of our favorite artists, like Shania Twain.    Finally, deep – yet elegant, necklines could be seen everywhere – including on stunning Faith Hill. 
So, it’s now officially that time of year for boots and skinny jeans.   Pull out your cowboy boots and have fun pairing them with fashionable tights and your favorite skinny jeans. 
No outfit is complete without some personal touches – such as belts, earring and bracelets – and our ADA Collection leathers were practically made for this slightly rugged yet feminine look!
The incomparable veteran singer and “King of Country”, George Strait, was honored as the CMA Entertainer of the Year….   But enough about the winners, losers and overall fun we had watching last night’s Country Music Awards – let’s talk about how elegant the top ladies of country music looked!   

Surprisingly, belts were seen paired with long elegant gowns all over the red carpet – including on the beautiful event co-host Carrie Underwood. Large earrings and gold bracelets were worn by some of our favorite artists, like Shania Twain.    Finally, deep – yet elegant, necklines could be seen everywhere – including on stunning Faith Hill. 

So, it’s now officially that time of year for boots and skinny jeans.   Pull out your cowboy boots and have fun pairing them with fashionable tights and your favorite skinny jeans. 

No outfit is complete without some personal touches – such as belts, earring and bracelets – and our ADA Collection leathers were practically made for this slightly rugged yet feminine look!